The foundations of the new Lebanese state were established in 1943 by an unwritten agreement between the two most prominent Christian and Muslim leaders, Khouri and Sulh. The contentsof this agreement, later known as the National Pact or National Covenant (al Mithaq al Watani), were approved and supported by their followers.
The National Pact laid down four principles. First,Lebanon was to be a completely independent state. The Christian communities were to cease identifying with the West; in return, the Muslim communities were to protect the independence of Lebanon andprevent its merger with any Arab state. Second, although Lebanon is an Arab country with Arabic as its official language, it could not cut off its spiritual and intellectual ties with the West, whichhad helped it attain such a notable degree of progress. Third, Lebanon, as a member of the family of Arab states, should cooperate with the other Arab states, and in case of conflict among them, itshould not side with one state against another. Fourth, public offices should be distributed proportionally among the recognized religious groups, but in technical positions preference should be given tocompetence without regard to confessional considerations. Moreover, the three top government positions should be distributed as follows: the president of the republic should be a Maronite; the primeminister, a Sunni Muslim; and the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, a Shia Muslim. The ratio of deputies was to be six Christians to five Muslims.
From the beginning, the balance provided for inthe National Pact was fragile. Many observers believed that any serious internal or external pressure might threaten the stability of the Lebanese political system, as was to happen in 1975.
In 1989, the kings of Saudi Arabia and Morocco and the president of Algeria formed a Tripartite Committee with the aim of finding a resolution to the Lebanese civil war, which had raged for...